“Special Delivery!” barked a tall workman pushing a cart loaded with transport boxes, glass clanging as he crossed the threshold into the galley. “Is that the sake?” yelled a hidden man from behind the bar. “No sir, this Lavian Brandy and Indi Bourbon” replied the workman. “DMehaffy’s going to kick my ass!” came a shout from behind the bar.
The workman looked around at the newly furnished galley, waiting patiently. Looking to the right of the bar, he saw a glass tank filled with water, bubbles in the back rising steadily, and what appeared to be a wooden log in the center surrounded by water plants. Beneath the log was a strange set of eyes, intently staring back at him from within the logs shadow. Whatever the creature was, it didn’t blink once in the moments which the workman waited. It kept staring with such a glare, it was as if the creature wanted to devour the workman’s heart.
The workman rolled the liquor up to the bar. “In my invoice here, it says to charge payment to Dutch Foster, is he around?” “Yes sir, that’s me” the man behind the bar shouted. The workman could hear some crawling and scratching, and then a short, heavy set man stood up and began to walk out. He had dark brown, well kept hair and a beard, which mostly covered a long scar running down the side of his face. A mechanical red eye glared at him, then the man opened the first box. He pulled out a bottle of Lavian Brandy. “Meh…” Foster quipped. He put the bottle back in the box and set it on the bar. “This one is the Indi Bourbon” said the workman. Foster smiled, ripped open the box and grabbed a bottle. “That’s the stuff, right there”, he said, then he grabbed a glass from the bar and started pouring, filling it half full before he stopped.
“How much do I owe you?” Foster asked, then began to tilt back the glass of bourbon to take a drink. “The cost of the merchandise, along with emergency expedited freight to Epsilon Indi, then to Lave, then to Varati… Sir, the total comes to two hundred twenty nine thou…” Foster choked on the bourbon, then began to cough. After a brief moment, he regained composure. “How… In the hell… Does this cost that much?” Foster cried in horror. The workman responded “Well sir, you ordered this two days ago, and…” Foster cut him off. “You know what, just charge it. I need it, it’s gotta happen, no way around it. Thank you for bringing that to me on short notice.” The workman handed Foster a tablet. Foster input his information, signed it, then replied “Thank you, sir, I do appreciate it.” He handed the workman back his tablet, then picked up his glass of bourbon.
Dutch Foster sighed, then took a sip of the bourbon. He then walked over to a communications console, let it boot up, then began typing. ESTABLISHING COMMS flashed on the screen. A video feed with a man in a command chair appeared. “Commander Foster, how are you?” the man asked. “I’m running out of time. The Gnosis will be jumping in just under two hours. How far out are you?” Foster said in a worried tone. The captain of the ship responded “We were hit by pirates and slowed down a bit. It is unlikely that we will make it in time. I’m very sorry, but sir, may I ask, what is so important that you get this particular sake? Surely there are others available within range.” Foster tilted his head to one side, an annoyed glare appeared on his face. “The gentlemen in Canonn Research and Development work very hard. They get stressed, and when they get stressed, they’ll take a break. When they take a break, they come down here to the galley to destress. Destressing involves either drinking their favorite beverage, or throwing the cheap stuff at the bartender.” The captain of the freighter nodded with an understanding look. “I see”, he replied. “Unfortunately, we will not be able to make it before the Gnosis departs.”
Dutch Foster puts his palm on his forehead, rubbing it in circles. As he is thinking, he hears footsteps coming through the entrance behind him. He turns to see a young woman, very professionally dressed, with a happy look on her face. Foster spoke “The galley isn’t fully stocked yet, some orders have yet to arrive. I’ve got a few things, though. What’ll you have?” “I’m here for the job.” She replied. “Huh?” Foster asked, looking confused. “I’m here to help you run the galley. You gotta sleep sometime, don’t you?” the woman asked with a grin. Foster looked her over, and thought about the situation for a second. He turned back to the communications console and looked at the commander. “I’ll come meet you and pick them up. Where are you at?” “We are just about to refuel at Adepti” said the captain. Foster took a moment to think. “Soto Dock, Jaoi” he blurted. “Very well. Can you make it there and back in time?” asked the Captain. An annoyed look appeared on Foster’s face. “Yeah… I can… See you in Jaoi” he grumbled, shaking his head, just before he cut the communication.
Dutch Foster turned around to face the young woman. “Do you know where the Gnosis is going?” he asked. “Why, yes, we’re going towards the action” she replied, a big smile forming across her face. Foster nodded, then tilted his head. “You’re a little fancy dressed to be a bar maid, aren’t you?” he asked. The woman looked at her herself, smiling, then replied “I’m sure the patrons won’t mind. So do you want to sit down for the interview?” “Get behind the bar” said Foster. The woman promptly walked behind the bar, taking a look around at the refrigerators. Her glance made it to the sink, and then on to the water tank in the back. She lowered her knees a bit to peek underneath the log in the tank, her eyes locked into the stare of an unknown creature in the shadow. She backed up, then turned around to face Foster. “Well?” she inquired. “Pour some of that Indi Bourbon in the glass there, Miss.” said Foster. The woman picked up the bottle and started pouring. “That’ll do.” He said, and picked up the glass and gulped down the bourbon in an instant. He looked across the bar at the woman. “You’re hired. Take these bottles and get them cold. You see that fridge there under the bar on the left?” “Yes sir.” she said. “That’s where this open bottle of bourbon, and one more goes. There’s also a container of clams. Neither the clams nor those two bottles of bourbon get served.” Foster explained. The woman looked confused. She asked “What are the clams for?” Foster pointed at the glaring set of eyes in the water tank. “Every even numbered hour on the clock, you take a few of those clams and drop them into the tank.” He said. He then leaned slightly forward with a serious look on his face. “Do not stick your hand in the tank.” He sternly advised. Foster turned around and began to walk out. “Where are you going?” The woman asked. Foster turned his head, still walking. “…to get the damned sake. If anyone comes here asking for it, tell them it’s on its way.” The woman nodded, then turned around to take in the inventory. She then realized he hadn’t even asked her name. By the time she turned to tell him, he was out of sight.
Dutch Foster walked steadily down the corridor. He turned a corner, then opened the door to a medium sized docking bay. “There’s my baby!” He said with a smile, glancing at the Asp Explorer before him. It was a heavily modified Asp, white in color with extra fins, oversized engines, adorned with Canonn logos and bearing the name Curiositas. As he walked towards his ship, a mechanic walked out to greet him. “She’s a beauty, sir! Will you be taking her out?” Foster nodded and continued past him. The mechanic caught a whiff of alcohol, and a worried expression appeared on his face. “Sir, you’ve been drinking. Are you sure you should be flying?” Foster stopped and turned his head to his left looking behind his shoulder, his mechanical red eye fixed on the flight mechanic. The mechanic had clearly asked the wrong question. Foster turned his head back to the ship and kept walking. He went up the ramp and through the rear hatch, locking it behind him. “Are you sure you should be flying…” Foster mumbled in a mocking tone of voice. “Damn kids…”
Dutch Foster soon appeared in the cockpit, his white flight suit shining back the light of the docking bay. He sat down at the helm, flipping switches and powering up the Asp Explorer. He opened a comms channel to the flight coordinator. “I’m ready to depart.” A few seconds went by, then the bay doors opened. The docking pad began to lift. A voice spoke across the comms channel “You are now cleared to depart the Gnosis. Have a safe flight, Commander.” The Asp lifted off the pad, landing gear instantly beginning to retract. The Curiositas flipped over, then Foster punched the boosters. He pulled up the nav panel, brought up the galactic map, then plotted a course to Jaoi. He started the jump sequence then leaned back into the flight chair. The FSD of the Curiositas charged up and soon after, the ship burst into hyperspace.
Back at the Gnosis, the clock above the bar in the galley hit 06:00. “Time to see what happens.” the woman said, reaching into the small fridge for the clams. She grabbed a couple of the dried squishy shell-less clams, and closed the door. She turned to the water tank and peered into the shadow beneath the log. The creature’s eyes stared back at her with a seemingly excited look in them. She opened the top lid, dropped the clams inside, and stepped back. The clams floated down, falling just in front of the log before the shadow. Before they could touch the rocks on the bottom, several tiny purple tentacles whipped out, and the clams were gone in an instant. The woman stepped back, wondering what kind of creature it was, where it had come from. “Scary little bugger, you are.” The woman said, and then turned around to look over the bar. A few minutes passed, and she turned her head back to the tank. The eyes of the creature were again fixed on her with an unsettling stare. “So long as I’m around, you’re going to stay there in that tank, you got that?” the woman exclaimed. The creature in the tank was unfazed, not a blink nor a shift in its glaring eyes. The woman let out a long sigh, then turned her head back over the bar. She began to wonder if Dutch Foster would make it back in time.
“Here you go, sir! 40 bottles of Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura Mio Sparkling Sake, all the way from Earth. Please input your payment details here.” said a man handing a tablet over to Dutch Foster. “Thank you. I need to get going.” Foster said, dabbing his index finger on the tablet. He handed the tablet back to the workman from the freighter, and then started rolling the cart up the ramp of the Curiositas. He set the wooden containers of the sake bottles in two small cargo hatches, then kicked the cart through the outer door, back down the ramp. “Clear the pad, I’m taking off!” Foster yelled out the hatch before closing it shut. He made his way back to the cockpit and sat at the helm.
He looked at the time. …06:26. “Bloody Hell, this going to be tight.” Foster grumbled, then started firing up the engines of the ship. “Thank you for visiting us here at Soto Dock, Commander. Fly safe.” said a voice over the comms. The Asp lifted off, flipped upside down, then made its way towards the front of the station. Once he had made it through the mail slot, Foster punched the thrusters. The Asp zoomed to over 400mps. “Frameshift Drive Charging” the ships computer informed. A few seconds later, the Asp was back in hyperspace.
FWIP! A large yellow white star appeared and the Asp Explorer began to dive into the heat of the star. “Fuel Scooping… Fuel Scooping Complete.” The star began to shrink behind the Curiositas, and then a voice came over the ships comms… “Hah! I’ve been waiting for hours for someone to come along. What are you holding, friend?” said the unknown voice. Dutch Foster, glared at the speaker of the comms unit. “Nothing worth your time… Friend..” A laugh came across the comms unit, then the would be pirate said “Well, I just recently acquired this python, and I think I’d like to see how well she can chase you.” Dutch Foster replied “This is the Science Vessel Curiositas. All I’m carrying is a few bottles of sake, surely you can find someone else who has something worth your time.” “Space is a very dangerous place, you know. You really should be flying armed.” The pirate responded. Foster started laughing… “I don’t need guns to make you feel like a dumbass.” The Curiositas jolted, caught in an interdiction wave. “I’ve got bounties in eight systems, it’s a shame this system won’t count.” The pirate said in a laugh. Foster laughed harder. “Eight systems! That’s it?! Damn, you suck!”
Dutch Foster dropped the cruise speed of the Curiositas and submitted to the interdiction. Both ships dropped out of cruise. The Curiositas turned to face the pirate python, and the boosters fired. The python opened up with multi-canons and lasers, mostly missing as the asp flew beneath it, then behind. “Dumbass!” Dutch Foster yelled into the comms unit then fired the boosters again. The FSD of the Curiositas began charging, the ship now well out of the range of pirate guns. Soon it was once again in hyperspace, back on its way to the Gnosis.
The Curiositas dropped out of hyperspace, this time not bothering to scoop. Dutch Foster targeted the Gnosis and began to run for it. He looked back at the time. …06:52. “Oh shit.” The comms unit lit up. The bar maid started to speak “Mr. Foster, sir… A man named Starbeaver came by to see you just a minute ago. Uh… He laughed that you went to get sake and would miss the maiden flight of the Gnosis. He told me to tell you that you’re the worst bartender ever. You weren’t even in the bar when he came to check on you… I’m very sorry, sir.” “I haven’t missed it yet.” Foster replied, annoyed and determined. The Curiositas dropped out of cruise off the port side of the Gnosis. Dutch Foster signaled for docking clearance. There was no response. The engines of the Gnosis began to light up. “No!… No no!” Foster exclaimed in a panic. In a flash, the Gnosis was gone. “DAMNIT!!!” Dutch Foster went into an indiscernible expletive laden scream fest, then plotted a course for Hyades Sector AQ-Y D81, the first stop on the journey of the Canonn megaship Gnosis.